Few people understand the value of their word. It's almost unheard of anymore for someone to make a verbal commitment, and then actually stick to it even when something better or more convenient comes along.
People weren't any more or less trustworthy in biblical times. Some of the greatest people in the Bible were not only victims of deceivers, they were the deceivers! Jacob alone spent the first half of his life lying and cheating and thriving because of it. In no way does scripture condone this behavior - if you think that's true you need to read your Bible.
However, it's no secret that Jacob wasn't trustworthy. His own father was suspicious of giving out a blessing without knowing for certain which son he was giving it to (Genesis 27:5-29). Still, despite decades of deceitfulness embedded into Jacob's character, God refused to give up on him.
He deceived his brother Esau and stole his birthright, he deceived his father and stole the blessing that was supposed to go to Esau. He spent decades deceiving his father-in-law and being deceived by him. Finally, he runs away from the consequences of his lying to his father-in-law to his homeland - where his big brother Esau resides.
The Lord could have sat back with popcorn and simply watched - this ought to be interesting! But He didn't. As Jacob is about to face his older brother, he's terrified and prays that God will deliver him. Isn't that just like us to make a mess of our lives and relationships and ask God to get us out of the consequences of those poor decisions?
In my flesh, operating out of my soul, I know I'd be quick to tell Jacob - "You're on your own, dude! You got yourself into this mess, you get yourself out." And yet, that's not what God does. That's not what grace does.
After a night of wrestling with God (Genesis 32:23-33), Jacob approaches his older brother, gets on his knees, and is met with unreasonable mercy. Later, God blesses Jacob even more, changing his name to Israel and gives him the same land He gave to Jacob's grandfather Abraham and his father Isaac.
Unreasonable. Illogical. Many would go so far to say it was foolish. Yet, God did it. Why?
He made a covenant with Abraham long before Jacob came into the picture. It wasn't just a promise. It was the word of the Almighty who not only made an agreement with Abraham, but became one with him in that agreement.
"When Abram (Abraham) was ninety-nine years old the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, 'I am God Almighty, walk before me, and be blameless, that I may make my covenant between me and you, and may multiply you greatly..' Then Abram fell on his face. And God said to him, 'Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham, for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations'" (Genesis 17:1-5, ESV).
He was nearly one hundred years old and didn't have any children. Still, the Lord said Abraham would have children and, years later, he did. By the time Jacob came along there were only two generations between him and Abraham, no 'multitude of nations' to be seen.
God's promise to Abraham was not contingent on the good behavior of his descendants. The Almighty made a promise to Abraham based on one thing, and one thing only: God's ability and willingness to carry out that promise. Regardless of the behavior of others.
What's even more incredible, is that even though Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, and the many others with whom God made a covenant, failed to fulfill their end of the deal - God still moved forward in grace and mercy as though the failure didn't happen. He always had a plan B, a plan C, etc. to meet His end: fulfilling His promise.
Which He always did.
While there are always consequences to our decisions, God's promises are undaunted by the mistakes and failures of those with whom He made the promise.
Fast forward several thousand years to Jesus. The final covenant is made, the new covenant, with His own Son who lived the perfect, unblemished life no one else in history could live. Now, not only are we given grace, we're given the power to carry out what God calls us to carry out because we're in Christ and have His Spirit.
I struggle, immensely, with actively loving people who don't keep their word. I struggle to love those who lack integrity, the ones who lie with the ease of breathing and are indifferent to the consequences of their sins against others. I'd probably help them in their time of need, but I'm not likely to invite them out to coffee just because.
And yet, I look at God's heart toward Jacob. He loved Jacob and blessed Jacob. He even went so far to change his name from Jacob, which means "cheat," to Israel, with whom the Lord has a very special place in His heart.
Enter the new covenant, and God loves us based entirely on what His Son accomplished for us, not what we do for ourselves or for Him. I see how God loved Jacob and blessed Him because of a promise He made to Abraham. Then I look at Jesus and realize that the promise made thousands of years ago is completely and wholeheartedly fulfilled.
Because I love and follow the One who fulfilled the promise, because I am in Christ, the Lord loves and blesses me based on what His Son has done on my behalf. The Almighty blesses you because of the promise made from and for Jesus, fulfilled through Jesus, and fulfilled by Jesus.
There's nothing for me or anyone else to do because it's all already been done. Including all things that merit "deserving" love.
Let that sink in for a moment.
This means that when we're lied to, cheated, betrayed or abused, we can still love that person because of what the Almighty One has already done for us, to His son, and therefore in us through His Spirit. The price has been paid.
We get to love others, and receive love, regardless of what I do, or anyone else does.
That's grace. Suddenly the impossible act of loving other people isn't so impossible. In God's economy, every debt and judgment has been paid and rendered. All that's left is love.
I value my word and being a person others can count on. I hold a very high regard for God's word - higher than every other word, including my own. I'm learning to love regardless of whether or not others value the same thing - because that's a huge part of His Word, too.